Now and again someone sends me a provocatively-titled article, calling for the immediate end to workplace snacking – something along the lines of, “Stop Giving Your Employees Snacks.”
These articles often cite a particular CDC report on food and beverages at work. The study concluded that most employees with access to free snacks and beverages at work were eating foods with little to no nutritional value and that were high in added sugar, solid fat, and sodium. We’re talking the worst of the worst – “pizza, soft drinks, cookies/brownies, cakes and pies, and candy.”
But while most of the coverage and commentary I’ve read has focused on the problems associated with these findings, I see an unparalleled opportunity to drive positive change. And if you read beyond the headlines, you’ll see that the study’s findings don’t suggest all office snacking is bad, just the unhealthy variety.
In my view, office snacking represents one of the biggest opportunities to impact health in our lifetime, with the potential to reverse the negative effects of a poor diet for millions of American workers.
Sound crazy? Follow me for a minute and you may agree.
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Snacking Behavior is Only Increasing
Millennials love snacking.
This generation’s proclivity for variety and new experiences have driven huge, disruptive shifts in everything from car ownership (hello Uber and Fair.com) to media consumption (Netflix on mobile anyone?) to where and how we work (or should I say, “WeWork”).
The same goes for meals. Recent data shows that 94% of consumers snack at least twice daily, and that snacking accounts for 50% of all eating occurrences.
So it’s no wonder we see increased snacking in the workplace, as Millennials recently became the largest segment of employees in the workforce.
(And for the record, I myself am a Millennial, albeit on the cusp.)
Snacking – at work, at home, and on-the-go – isn’t going anywhere. Substituting a better alternative is not only much, much easier, but also more likely to produce positive results and create dramatic behavioral change. Recognizing this is key.
Snacking Has an Outsized Impact on Diet, and Therefore Health
How we snack affects how we eat generally. Data from one worksite wellness study found “that the choice of snack foods affected both [diet quality and BMI].” In other words, the more nutritious the snack, the better the meal choices later.
To see why, think about your own experience. If you have a candy bar at 2:30, are you more likely or less likely to cave to that cheeseburger craving around dinner time? For most of us, it’s the former.
How the younger generations snack will significantly determine how they eat. And how you eat will have massive impact on how you live. I do not think I’m alone when I state that nothing has a greater impact on your life than the foods you consume. Saying your diet is super important is an understatement.
Recognizing this, we see snacking as a big part of the solution. And we agree that for most Americans and workplaces there is a better path forward.
We work with hundreds of the best better-for-you brands on the planet that produce snacks that are low-glycemic, high in healthy fats and lean proteins, and/or adhere to strict guidelines when it comes to chemicals and other harmful additives. These are snacks that are designed to keep you fuller longer, and that prevent crashes, boost cognition, and satisfy cravings. In other words, they won’t sabotage your productivity or your health goals.
Access is Key
One of the most important aspects of this study is the fact that access to free soda in the fridge or a sheet cake in the breakroom is likely the biggest factor.
This makes the solution simple – to make an impact, provide access to healthier office snacks.
And we know that employees want healthier too. New data suggests that today’s employees are more health conscious than ever. According to one study, 65 percent of employees report that having access to healthy snacks in the office is “very” or “extremely important”, with 53 percent saying office snacks help them stay healthy. 41 percent of employees want to know where the ingredients in their office meals come from.
Instead of eliminating all catered or complimentary meals and snacks in the office – which will remove a companies’ ability to positively influence their eating habits, increase the likelihood of energy-crash-inducing blood sugar swings, and lead to employees spending more time away from the office – unlock the hidden benefits of healthy office eating and elevate your company snack game. The benefits of doing so are robust. We’re talking things like engagement, happiness, productivity, and even attracting and retaining talent.
At SnackNation, we envision a world where everyone has access to clean, delicious food, everywhere.
I passionately believe that the opportunity to affect change through micro-eating moments and healthier on-the-go food decisions is much bigger than most of us realize. SnackNation serves the snacking needs of half a million people in thousands of member offices in all 50 states, but I know that we’re only scratching the surface of what we can achieve.
What do you think? Do healthy office snacks make a difference in your life? And whose responsibility is it, the employee, or the employer? I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to add to the conversation in the comments below.